A surge in hospitalized COVID-19 patients is easing slightly with the number of patients dropping from 2,000 in mid-November to under 1,700.
Hospital bed usage is down to 85 percent. However, health care workers are still feeling the pressure of caring for COVID-19 patients. Two SSM Health nurses in Madison, with a combined three decades working in the ICU, said they are feeling the stress, but a special bond that goes beyond the hospital floor is helping them through. Andrea Jarstad and Michelle Davis have worked together for 13 years in the ICU at Madison’s SSM Health St. Mary’s hospital. “We have each other’s backs,” Davis explained. In the fall of 2020, the hospital has seen an influx of COVID-19 patients. “We always had sick patients there, of course,” Jarstad explained. Davis added, “But they’re here for weeks at a time.”
The two women are bracing for the number to rise. “I fully expect there to be another surge, for sure, definitely. I guess I would be surprised if it didn’t happen,” Jarstad said. Despite the stress, Jarstad and Davis have each other to lean on. They are not just coworkers; they are also sisters.
“It’s kind of like you have a go-to person,” Jarstad described. It’s a “go-to person” who can share the struggle of caring for more sick patients.
“You’re not alone, she totally understands what we go through because she’s there living it too,” Davis explained. The two sisters also share an understanding of how dangerous the virus can be.
“I really wish there was a way to tell people and to explain just how dangerous it is. I just feel like there’s really no way to even begin to describe it,” Jarstad said.
Jarstad added trying to explain the seriousness of the situation is the hardest part. “It’s really very hard to see patients dying without their loved ones, because that’s a reality,” she described. The two women hope people hear their message and listen. “Wearing a mask and social distancing is an extremely small sacrifice to make when you are talking about lives of human beings,” Jarstad said, adding, “I feel like if we were able to do it a little sooner and we all really did it, that maybe we wouldn’t be in the place that we are.”
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